Have you ever read a letter or note that wasn’t intended for you?

I can’t say I’ve ever read anything not intended for me, but I learned an interesting lesson a couple of times by 1. reading from someone’s thoughts that were open to me to read, but which I generally chose not to read and 2. by knowing who wrote a comment on a blog post I once wrote even though they thought they were posting anonymously.

The first time was after my ACL surgery, which was one of the most painful experiences I’ve had. I read the words, “Dalene doesn’t seem to be in much pain.” In fact I was in a good deal of pain and I was quite overwhelmed with having to juggle crutches and timing three different meds taken at different and not entirely divisible intervals. And due to certain circumstances, I found myself for a couple of days at a time being the only adult home and therefore responsible for four kids. I remember one occasion in particular when my daughter, who was about 8 at the time, had a horrible stomach ache. She crawled from her room into the hall way, where she was doubled in pain. All I could do was lower my lame self to the floor in the hall, not at all certain I would be able to get up again with just one leg, and stroke her head and cry right with her. I don’t know how we both got through that time, but somehow, as one does, we did. It wasn’t just that no one had any idea how hard that time was for me, but also that somehow I was creating a misperception that it was somehow easy, that made me feel truly isolated and alone.

The second incident was also painful, but in a different way. I’d written something raw and honest and shared it in what nonetheless was a fairly safe place, amongst a community of my sisters. Granted readers are welcome to comment their agreements or disagreements as they wish, but at least at that time, people were generally up front with their identities, so when they did bring something to the table, they more or less looked you in the eye when they laid their cards down. On this one occasion someone I knew commented in disguise in a way that was hurtful to me on a number of levels. I felt betrayed in a place that should have been safe.

Both incidents taught me that we can no more know what is in others’ hearts, minds, and bodies, than they can know what is in ours. While never perfectly and often poorly, I’ve tried to use this knowledge to try to be aware more of others’ pain–both what they’re telling me, and what they’re not telling me. I try to remember to seek to understand and to give others the benefit of the doubt. And I continue my efforts to progress in forgiveness (because forgiveness–like healing one’s wounded heart–is a work in progress).

This might have been an Ann Cannon prompt I’ve been putting off. But there. Now it’s done.

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